When I was looking for options for my first pie, I became quite overwhelmed by the vast number of options. Anyone who knows how obsessive I am will understand the hours I spent researching different pies, how many books I checked out from the library about pie, how many websites I perused. But, just as Sue Anne recommended on her website, Ken Haedrich's Pie: 300 Tried and True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie had everything I wanted and needed to guide me in my decision. My options were whittled down considerably when I decided that in fairness to my new roommate, I should use some of the frozen berries that I was currently using to dominate our shared freezer space. I picked blueberries last July and raspberries in, amazingly, October, but had put off using them for the sake of some special event that I was sure would present itself. Instead, berries weren't being eaten and my roommate was dropping hints that she'd really love to get food out of the freezer without half its contents falling on her. So, after consulting with the friend who volunteered to eat the pie, a blueberry - sour cream pie was chosen.
I must confess that when I started researching pies, I got a little intimidated by the idea of making a pastry crust for my first pie attempt of the year. So lame! I should be fearless - so many suggestions from pie pros have said to approach the pie without fear if you want success. Next month, I'll do better. In the meantime, I decided to ease into the year by going with a standard graham cracker crust. Look, this proves that I made it by hand!
I made one crust and put it in a pie plate, but it was worried that it wouldn't all fit, so I transfered the crumbs into another plate. Unfortunately, I realized once I cooked the filling that the the crust was now too big! Perhaps it would have helped had I measured one pound of frozen blueberries on something other than a bathroom scale. (Note: Yes, I will accept donations for a kitchen scale.) To flesh out the filling a bit, I bought a very expensive 4 ounces of fresh blueberries to layer on top of the cooked berry filling. The recipe gave this as an optional step, and I'm glad I took the suggestion. Otherwise, I'd have had the thinnest, saddest pie ever.
The next morning, I made the sour cream - cream cheese topping, flecked with cheerful bits of lemon zest that fell effortlessly from my Microplane. As you can see from the picture, it wasn't the cleanest assembly, so I carefully loosened the excess crust from the edges of the plate and allowed the crumbs to overlap the outer edge of the topping by 3/4 inch. Uh, I, guess I didn't take a picture of that, but I swear, it looked much better than this picture!
I took the finished pie to a couple of different places. First, it made an appearance at a journal making party, where the first piece fell apart as I lifted it out, but the remaining slices were beautifully layered.
Oh, there you can see the overlapping crust!
Later, I tried the pie with my volunteer, C. Here he is, I think enjoying the pie.
He had just finished watching Office Space and was trying to replicate one of Jennifer Aniston's facial expressions. Attractive.
Finally, my friend D., Ph.D., had a small sliver at British Sunday and proclaimed it "really good", and my roommate finished it off as we held our almost-nightly ritual of sitting on opposite couches with our laptops and telling each other funny things we find online.
I thought the pie was wonderful. I felt a bit nervous as I was making it because small setbacks (the crust, the scale, etc.) seemed to endanger the final product, but I was amazed at how well the pure flavors came through: the sweetness of the blueberries, the sour lemon zest, the tang of sour cream. It's a classic flavor combination, but it still surprised me how pleasant it was to taste each element individually yet simultaneously. The uncooked, fresh berry layer was also a favorite amongst tasters - each berry popped with juice as you bit into it before melting into the cooked blueberries, creating a textural contrast that, for me, took the pie from "really crazy good" to "I can't talk right now..."
All in all, I was really proud of my first attempt, and I learned more about my equipment to make sure that things are easier in February.
Blueberry - Sour Cream Pie
from Pie: 300 Tried and True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich
1 recipe Graham Cracker Crumb Crust
One 1-lb bag individually frozen blueberries (not packaged in syrup)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Handful of fresh blueberries (optional)
Cream cheese - sour cream topping:
One 8-ounce package full-fat cream cheese, softened (note: I used Neufchatel, and thought it was perfectly fine)
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Handful of fresh blueberries or threads of lemon zest (optional)
1. Prepare the crust and press it into the bottom and up the side of a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Refrigerate, prebake, and let cool as directed.
2. Combine the frozen blueberries and lemon juice in a medium-size nonreactive saucepan. Cover, and cook over medium to low heat until the blueberries are almost simmering in their own liquid. Mix the granulated sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then stir the mixture into the berries. Bring the fruit to a boil, stirring. Once the fruit starts to boil, reduce the heat a little and cook, stirring nonstop, for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Scrape the fruit into a shallow bowl and let cool for 15 minutes.
3. Spoon the partially cooled filling into the cooled pie shell and smooth with a spoon. If you're using fresh berries, scatter them over the fruit and press them into the cooked berries. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the topping. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugars, and lemon zest together in a medium-size bowl until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and blend briefly until smooth. Spoon the filling over the chilled pie and smooth the top with a spoon. Cover with loosely tented aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
5. Just before serving, garnish with the blueberries or lemon zest, if desired.
Graham Cracker Crumb Crust
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Big pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter pie pan and set aside.
2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Mix briefly with your fingers. Add the butter and incorporate well, mixing first with a fork, then with your hands, rubbing thoroughly to form evenly dampened crumbs.
3. Spread the crumbs evenly and loosely in the pan, pressing them into the bottom and up the side. Refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Place on the center oven rack and bake for 7 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before filling.